A piece of history comes home
Just in time for the 100th anniversary ...
A piece of Webster City history has found its way home, thanks for two Webster City businessmen. Bud Wood, owner of Murray McMurray Hatchery Inc., and Rick Timm, of Timm’s Auto Body, worked together to restore a 1940 Dodge canopy truck, discarded for decades, that was once hatchery delivery truck. The two rescued the vehicle which had been sitting idle for 60-plus years.
The truck was found sitting “in the weeds” down by Stratford, according to Timm.
“A guy told me you could still read the McMurray Hatchery lettering on the door,” he said.
Wood had also heard about the truck.
“I’ve known about this truck for about 5 or 6 years,” said Wood. “John Hemingway contacted Murray (McMurray, the former owner of the hatchery) about the truck and he had no interest. When I took over the business, John called me. At that point, it wasn’t the right time.”
Wood also heard from Timm.
“Rick called me up and told me, ‘You’ve got to have this truck.’ He called me for three days straight,” Wood said. He still wasn’t sure he wanted to undertake the project but he kept thinking about it.
“My wife said she thought this would be great for the 100th anniversary,” Wood said, explaining that the hatchery would mark 100 years in 2017. So he called Timm and put the wheels in motion. They picked up the truck on July 17. Now — just a year later — what was an eyesore has been turned into a show piece.
Though the truck was in rough shape, the original hatchery logo was still clearly visible on the doors. The faded yellow paint job was also evident. Though not a standard Dodge color, Wood said research told them the yellow hue was indeed a fleet color.
“I don’t know if it was originally bought used or what,” he said. “But the hatchery had the truck until 1955 when they traded it in.”
Nearly everything on the refurbished truck is original equipment. Wood said the motor was shot, but they were able to find a comparable one to replace it.
“My son-in-law had a 1950 Dodge, and because of World War II, things didn’t change. So the engine is almost exactly the same as the original. We took that engine and put it in the truck.”
The transmission is original to the vehicle as are the running boards. The rear fenders, which are fiberglass, are an exact copy, said Timm.
The front fenders each took four days of work to straighten.
“Anybody who’s ever done any body work knows that panel – in order to make it look good, it takes lots of blocking and sanding,” Timm said.
Timm and his crew did the body work on the Dodge truck. Wood worked on the top, creating the wood-lined base for the canvas cover. His daughter helped him by sewing the tarp.
“It took many hands. It was a lot of work,” Wood said.
The 1940 Dodge Canopy truck is a rare specimen, according to Timm. Only about 300 were built and on most, the canvas tops rotted away and the vehicles were discarded. From 1941 to 1946, production was halted due to the World War, Timm explained. In 1947, Dodge stopped making the canopy trucks completely.
“That just goes to show you how few were made,” he added.
Originally, the plan was to just clear coat over the rust. But Timm had second thoughts about that.
“I told Bud that there’s nothing better than shiny paint,” Timm said. “So we started on it.”
They started out with a budget for the refurbishing but quickly found that things wouldn’t go as easily as they had thought.
“We encountered mechanical problems and time problems,” he said. “And then there’s the fact that it sat outside for many years. Nothing came undone very easily.” Bolts and rivets, rusted and worn from their exposure to the elements for so many years, made the work challenging.
Timm and Wood realized they needed to rethink how they would complete the task of giving new life to the old truck.
“Bud ended up helping me on the weekends,” Timm said. “So for several weekends, he was there helping me. He ordered all of the parts, researched all of the pieces and he did all of the things I didn’t want to do like the upholstery and the wood work.
“He took a hard job and turned it into an easy job,” Timm added.
The red logo on the truck’s doors was recreated from the cover of the 1940 McMurray Hatchery catalog.
One special new part was added to help identify the truck. A silver rooster proudly perches on the front of the truck to serve as the hood ornament. It may not be original to the vehicle, but Wood said he thought it was the perfect accessory for the hatchery truck.
In his jaunts around town, Wood said he’s heard lots of comments about the Dodge.
“I don’t know how many people around town have told me that they have ridden in this truck as Boy Scouts or as a young employee of the hatchery,” Wood said. And photos seem to support those comments. Several photos of Murray McMurray from the 1940s show a handful of smiling youths posing near a similar truck. McMurray was the longtime scoutmaster of Webster City’s Troop 17.
Wood said the truck will soon be on the parade circuit and will be used to promote the hatchery. And it’s already won some accolades. Wood entered the truck in the recent Kamrar Car Show and took home the trophy for the best truck.
Timm said he was grateful to have been part of the restoration project.
“I would like to thank Bud for letting me touch a piece of history,” Timm said.